Welcome back!

When I talk about the Virginia Screenwriters Forum (VSF), I always say, “Some of the best writers in Virginia are members.” It’s a legacy we’re building on having had such great former members as Vince Gilligan (“Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul”), Megan Holley (Sunshine Cleaning) and Helene Wagner, the award-winning VSF founder and director for over 20 years. Eric Carlson, winner of more than 40 screenwriting contests,served as director until 2021 when I became the third director.  As we wrap up our 32rd year, new offerings include a national screenwriting contest and a short film showcase. On the cusp of 2023, I am so grateful for the opportunity to lead, learn from and leverage the talent of some of the best writers in Virginia.

Northam Book Q&A

Mike did a splendid Q&A with author and journalist Margaret Edds, who wrote, What the Eyes Can’t See. This book explores then-Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s blackface scandal and how it changed his perspective and ultimately his impact on state politics. The thought-provoking 75-minute program was held at the Library of Virginia last month.

Bonnie Newman Davis

Speaking of books, how fun to be included in one! Bonnie Newman Davis, friend and former newspaper colleague, recently published Truth Tellers: The Power and Presence of Black Women Journalists Since 1960. Bonnie examines 24 women who shaped newsrooms and media leadership. Managing Editor of the Richmond Free Press, Davis birthed the idea over 30 years ago while teaching a “Pioneering Newswoman” course at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). We chatted about her passion project.


How did you select those profiled?

Some are and were journalists, women I admired from afar, women such as Dorothy Butler Gilliam, Pamela McAllister Johnson who’d encourage me early in my career, women I’d met in NABJ —either from serving on the board or during our national conventions. 

Why self-publish? 

To be honest, I decided to self-publish because several of the women in the book are older —Dorothy Gilliam just turned 86—and I wanted to make sure that they know how much their work has meant to me and other Black women journalists and audiences/readers everywhere. Of course, Dorothy released her own amazing memoir in 2019 and I’m glad that she continues to promote it. As you know, the book-writing process can go on forever. There are always words or sentences to delete or rewrite, more drafts…just all of that. I felt that I could not afford to wait and shop around the book to different publishers. I am very hands-on and am used to doing a lot of work and heavy lifting by myself. 

Having been in this business for so long and knowing how to write, edit, design, identify talented and creative people, I felt well-equipped to self-publish and several authoritative, experienced and knowledgeable people encouraged me to do so. I felt confident about the people I hired to help write and edit my book, they all have worked or work for leading publications, universities etc. I’ve learned a lot in this process and for that I am grateful.

You’ve been a reporter, editor, media consultant, and now executive director of your own nonprofit. What advice do you wish you could’ve given yourself at age 18?

After my sophomore year I didn’t have a clue about what was next. It wasn’t until I took a newswriting course that my world opened up. After writing my first article and having it appear in the school newspaper and the local Black newspaper —that’s when I discovered how journalism can take you places never imagined. In fact, I traveled to several conferences in several major cities while still in college. I remember sitting in an audience filled with news executives and seeing Phil Donahue and Connie Chung! This was in the 70s! 

Why did you come out of retirement to lead the Richmond Free Press?

I was pretty much retired, living my best life, planning vacations, etc. I said “yes” when Mrs. Jean Boone, the Richmond Free Press publisher, asked me to come aboard because I knew that I could handle the job. I’d been the guest managing editor in the past on several occasions. The Free Press is highly regarded in Richmond and a lot of work has gone into building the newspaper since its inception 30 years ago by the founder, Raymond Boone. So I describe my being at the Free Press as “a calling.” Newspapering is in my blood, I love being around Black people and writing about Black people. I always have. I attribute that to my large family —four aunts and five uncles on my mother’s side. I also said “yes” because, even though I’ve been in leadership positions in the past, there always seemed to be stumbling blocks —often deliberately placed—- to prevent me from assuming the top position (or close to the top). So accepting the Free Press position allowed me to ascend to a top leadership position at a reputable organization. 

VCU Talk

So nice to be included in Bonnie’s book two years after publication of my debut novel Malcolm and Me, which I will discuss in person and virtually at VCU next month. I’d love to see you, join if you can.

Mike’s Book

Mike is looking forward to his first residency next spring at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) where he’ll work on his first book. I am beyond elated. More to come, stay tuned!

Visioning 2023

While Mike starts his book, I plan to finish my next one. That’s a priority for my new vision board. My current one has stayed in the family room under the TV for me to see daily. It along with accountability partners made this a fruitful year with remarkable opportunities and challenges. Goals require actions and deadlines. I recommend a vision board for you so we can live our best lives in 2023. 

Until next time, 

Happy holidays and make joy contagious!


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